Collaborative Story Telling

Another post on D&D? It’s almost like we’re nerds!


The topic I’m broaching is storytelling in D&D or more broadly perhaps collaborative storytelling. I thought about doing the origins of storytelling but in my research I stumbled across an article on collaborative story tell and it dawned on me how old that really is!

How old is it? ANCIENT. So many of the oldest texts were collaborative! *pause for dramatic effect* Right? I don’t know why I didn’t think about it. These stories have shared characters, settings and backgrounds. Common histories, mythologies and understandings give so many stories a shared “world”.  Think of Jason and the Argonauts – many different authors have written about him. merlin_clipart_by_disneyfreak19-d8wk9fgOr Merlin – the article I read points out that “the persona we know today as Merlin was crafted over centuries by many individuals who collectively shaped the wizard by layering their own take on the previous version”.

I suppose I never really thought of it that way but collectively humans have been telling stories together forever. Whether it is sharing a world or sharing characters.

Of course technology has only upped the amount of collaborative story telling. More and more people are partaking in it. Fanfiction, comic books, television, table-top role-playing games. Yup, RPG.

For myself, collaborative storytelling is essential. I think I might literally die if I couldn’t take part in it. I am not a social person, and rather introverted but role-playing gives me a gateway to socialize and to express myself. It’s also one of the ways I grow as a writer.

I take part in two forms of collaborative story telling both are role-play (RP) but are very different. The first is post-by-post RP. This is done on a forum and actually the very first RP I got into. You can also do this over instant messenger.  Everyone has their own characters and I might write a post of any length giving my characters’ thoughts, feelings, actions. Then the next person would respond with their character. There is an art to this! You can’t just respond and give nothing more. Both writers are responsible for progressing the plot. It’s a game, but it’s a game that you play together. There is no winner – some people might attempt to play it competitively but that loses the fun for everyone. You win and lose together. So how do you win?

I read a post once about how RP is like a timeline. As the story moves along, things move up and down that timeline. Horizontal posts are exactly what they sound like – posts that describe the action and make a move horizontally down that timeline because it progresses the story. Vertical posts will often barely move the timeline at all, instead going into a great detail regarding a very specific moment.


If you only post a vertical post, the other person has to push the plot by themselves and that gets really hard to do! If you’re only ever posting horizontal posts then your characters might not develop. It needs a fine balance.

You also need to write collaboratively. Which requires teamwork and understanding!

The second RP I take part in is D&D, which Tara already covered in her last post. D&D differs from written RP in that it’s verbal. It also requires game mechanics. There are dice and math and there is a predetermined world that says what you can and cannot do depending on your character. Written RP requires you and your writing partner to determine if there are rules, or what the setting is. It does require an agreed upon world but depending on your world and how you write things can be much more limitless than D&D. The outcome in D&D is also controlled by a game master, consider them the ultimate story god, and also it is controlled by the luck of your die roll. Whereas with the written RP your writing determines the outcome along with other characters’ responses, and it can be much more cooperative where a bad DM could just overrule everything.


Both are great though, I love getting together once a week with a few friends and playing D&D. My character is fantastic. He’s 16, he’s a runaway and he’s as city-boy as they come. Being in the wilderness has not given him a love for nature at all. He’s got the worse luck. In my written RP, that’s something I can do daily as I have several going and usually there is a backlog of things to reply to. I have a host of characters and it’s great to watch them grow and to give my fingers some writing exercise!

That’s all I have to ramble about today!



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